Fort Lewis Tear Gas Leads To Evacuation

Tear gas from maneuvers at Fort Lewis apparently led to nausea-type problems for more than 60 people early this morning, and the evacuation of nearby homes in the Spanaway area, officials said.

Homes in a 2-square-mile area north of Fort Lewis were evacuated about 1 a.m. when residents began to experience sore throats, nausea and headaches, said Curt Benson, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.

Fifty-eight people were treated by medics, and eight others were taken, as a precaution, to St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, Benson said.

Among the injured was 71-year-old Warren Krembiel of Spanaway, who ran over a pressurized canister at the side of the road as he tried to escape from the area. The canister exploded, bruising his leg.

Residents were allowed back into their homes about 6 a.m.

The cause of the problem was not known until after 6 a.m. when officials at Fort Lewis acknowledged that tear gas used during maneuvers had spread to the nearby residential area.

At about 11:30 a.m., officials at Fort Lewis had received reports that two schools in the Spanaway area had been evacuated as well.

Fort Lewis personnel were dispatched to investigate.

They have not determined if the school's evacuation was due to another gas release, or a residual effect of the gas that escaped early this morning.